Why Take This Hike
This 0.4-mile-long trail, which begins within earshot of downtown Homer, plays host to a variety of birds and plants. Wheelchairs may have some trouble in the first few feet of soft gravel, but once they reach the plastic boardwalk they should find the going much easier—and maybe worth the trouble it took to drive 4 hours from Anchorage.
Arriving at the end of Beluga Avenue, on the southern end of Beluga Slough in Homer, you should see a sign near the picnic shed indicating the beginning of the trail. Follow the gravel path through a thin wall of trees out to the edge of the slough. There a plastic walkway replaces the gravel, while the trees give way to wide-open sky.
You’ll taste the salt in the air—a sign you’ve entered that magical border between sea and land. Here, fresh and salt water mingle to create a unique environment in which birds and animals thrive. Many, like some geese gulls, need access to such an environment just to survive.
As you follow the trail along the southwestern edge of the slough, you may come upon white cranes, gray gulls, and mottled sandpipers. You’ll also see purple lupines and pink fireweed, as well as many water grasses.
Though seasonal birds are usually very wary of people, many local birds will remain indifferent to your presence. The cleverer birds have even come to regard humans not as a threat, but as a boon—a careless species that drops bits of food near them.
At the northern end of the trail, you cross another short section of gravel and enter the small center of Homer proper, which makes for quite a transition from the slough.
Of course, after driving so far you probably don’t want to simply turn around and drive back to Anchorage. Most people come to Homer with the intention of spending at least a few days. During their stay, almost everyone walks down the mile-long spit, with its maze of stores and wharves. But you might also find it worthwhile to drive along the bluff above the city and into the rolling hills beyond.
Here, far from the bustle of the town, lies the Homestead Trail. If you come in August, you should find the many meadows along this trail bright with blossoming wildflowers. Take pictures for your friends back home, wowing them with the fact that this colorful array of flowers all grew wild.
(For more, see Walk-About Guide to Alaska, Volume One by Shawn R. Lyons)